Making Merry – Christmas Shopping with a Difference

Long known for its ancient treasures and public art, Winchester is also established these days as the home of modern artistic talent. Local people and visitors alike have the opportunity to meet a range of artists and craftspeople in the District this month, as they open their doors for a special weekend of demonstrations, festive cheer and unusual Christmas present ideas.

Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 November are the dates for this year’s Making Merry event – the third such celebration of contemporary art on a Christmas theme co-ordinated by Winchester City Council’s tourism unit under the banner of the Winchester Christmas Festival.

Twenty-four outlets – including private homes, workshops, studios and galleries – will open during the Making Merry weekend. Jewellery, textiles, glass, ceramics, paintings and even cakes will be on display and available to buy direct from makers around the Winchester District.

You can even unleash your own creative streak at the Pottery Café, where you can choose from 70 different ceramic items to paint with your own design.

Winchester City Council’s Special Events Officer Elaine Robbins said: "We all need added inspiration at Christmas time and this weekend promises plenty of fresh ideas. There’s also something very special about talking to the artist and finding out how and why the object was made: it adds the personal touch to an individual, hand-made present."

From cards and prints at very modest prices to bespoke items to lavish on your nearest and dearest, Making Merry promises treats to suit all pockets. In addition to gift ideas, some of the artists are offering refreshments from tea and biscuits to warming mulled wine and mince pies.

Others are giving demonstrations and advice – for example, there are tips on painting techniques from landscape artist Clare Goodman, valuations from Lacewing Fine Art and a chance to chat to jeweller Carol Darby about her exclusive designs. Sue Tinkler has even donated one of her stained glass pieces for a charity raffle.

Many of the makers taking part in the weekend are featured in the Winchester Eye-openers booklet, a comprehensive guide to contemporary arts and crafts in the district published by Winchester Tourism. The galleries and studios include both city-centre locations and those in the attractive nearby towns of Alresford and Bishop’s Waltham. Admission is free, in most cases, and there’s no pressure to buy.

Winchester City Council Portfolio Holder for Community Services, Cllr Therese Evans, said she could not think of a more relaxing or imaginative way to tackle the annual Christmas present purchases.

"We are lucky to have so many fine craftsmakers and artists in this area, and I am delighted that they have all joined together to provide such an unusual weekend. Many residents are probably unaware of the range and quality of crafts on their doorstep, and a number of these craftspeople don’t regularly open their doors to the public. So this is the perfect opportunity to find out more about local crafts as well as solving Christmas gifts," she added.

It is also – the team at Winchester Tourism is quick to point out – a perfect way for both residents and visitors to get out and explore the District. A full list of participating venues, opening arrangements and access for visitors with disabilities can be found in the Making Merry leaflet available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre. For your free copy, telephone 01962 840500, e-mail or download a PDF version from